Today’s column is from an event of the mid-1940s. It’s one worth repeating, especially for those, who have never heard nor read about it. The story concerns Japanese balloons, loaded with explosives, landing in the Cross Timbers area during the last days of World War II.
The story’s information was given to Ye OLD Columnist (YOC) by Tommie and Sylvia Huckabee, long-time Stephenville residents. Tommie is a retired architect. Author of the story is unknown; however, the writer did cite sources from daily newspapers.
The first of these bomb-laden balloons was launched from Japan on November 3, 1944, the birthday of the Japanese Emperor. The balloons were made of five layers of paraffin being covered with rice paper. The balloons were filled with hydrogen.
Each balloon carried five bombs – four were incendiaries and one a fragmentary anti-personnel device. Only 300 of the 9,000 balloons managed to reach Alaska, Canada and the United States between November, 1944 and July, 1945.
It was not until a minister’s wife and his six children were killed by one of the bombs in Oregon that Uncle Sam warned of the danger, pointing out the balloons were coming from Japan. The balloons traveled in the “Jet Stream” about 30,000 feet in the air and sped along at about 80 to 120 miles per hour. The farthest south the bombs fell were in this area, while the farthest east they landed was near Detroit, Michigan.
It is thought the bombs fell at four locations in Texas – east of DeLeon, south of Desdemona, eastern part of Brown County and near Woodson in Throckmorton County. Some newspapers said one of the bombs hit the ground in Brown County. Two bombs landed in this immediate area on March 23, 1945 – one between DeLeon and Comyn and the other near Desdemona. The Desdemona bomb actually hit the ground in Erath County. Residents in Erath County reported hearing a loud blast; however it was thought to be a fuel tank exploding.
The Desdemona bomb is better documented. It landed just west of the Guthery home. This balloon floated over the Desdemona Refinery and across Desdemona. This occurred just after the local school had concluded for the day. Apparently these two balloons began dropping their bombs upon their descent over Brown County. One of these bombs exploded in a Brown County pasture, leaving a crater eight feet deep. The second bomb exploded in the air southwest of DeLeon.
The following day military officials came to the Desdemona schools to retrieve fragments from the balloon and bombs that had been collected by students. No information was published by the U.S. government about the collection of evidence from the balloons and the bombs.
The report supplied to me by the Huckabee’s quoted published sources from five newspapers – The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Houston Post, The Dublin Progress, The Comanche Chief and The Dallas Morning News.
Some good news did result from the recent severe five-day ice storm. During this period, November’s moisture collected 1.31 inches.
November’s total was 1.89 inches. Average November rainfall is 2.10 inches. Rain was noted on nine dates with the largest amount falling on November 24 – 0.62 of an inch.
November became the sixth month in 2013 to record below average rainfall. The other five months are February, March, May, June and August.
The power outage on November 23 affected YOC. My power was off almost seven hours (7:20 a.m. until 2:05 p.m. Yep, a house can get COLD in that period of the time. Most of this time, Miss Lacy, my six-year-old Papillon dog, and I put on heavy clothing and sat in the recliner with a blanket over us.
Repeated calls to ONCOR’s automated answering device apparently helped; however, YOC got better results by talking with a “live person” on the non-emergency line of the Stephenville Police Department. The female dispatcher was extremely helpful and thoughtful. Thanks are also due the workmen, who braved the cold weather to make the necessary repairs.
’TIL NEXT TIME --“History is only made with actions.” – Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933), 30th President of the United States (1923-1929).